No one could stop Mikal Bridges on Tuesday night. Not the Knicks. Not the distraction created by model Tyra Banks, who was spotted courtside in the first half sitting between a pair of vibrant Furries.
“Was there something strange courtside?,” Bridges said.
The All-Star hopeful finished with 36 points, five rebounds and five assists in Brooklyn’s 108-103 loss at Barclays Center. He knocked down a career-best seven 3-pointers in his first 30 minutes on the court and dropped 18 points in the third quarter as the Nets outscored the Knicks 36-26 — an offensive burst that swung the game in Brooklyn’ favor for the moment.
But it was not enough.
Up 95-87 with 7:12 left in the fourth quarter, Brooklyn surrendered an 11-2 run over the next three minutes that saw the Knicks go up a point with four minutes left. Keep in mind, this latest offensive drought came just one game after the Nets gave up a 22-0 run to end Sunday’s heartbreaking loss to the Clippers. And that set up the team’s latest disappointment.
The Knicks ultimately ended the game on a 20-8 run to secure their fourth straight win and tenth in 13 games since acquiring forward OG Anunoby. Cam Johnson had a chance to tie the game at 106 with 6.8 seconds left in regulation but his 3-pointer missed off the left of the rim.
“Yeah, it was a good look,” Johnson said.
The Knicks shot 11-of-26 in the final frame while Brooklyn went 7-of-23. The Nets surrendered five offensive rebounds over the final 12 minutes, which led to nine second-chance points for the Knicks.
“I think that was the biggest thing for me, their ability to get second-chance points,” head coach Jacque Vaughn said. “Puts more pressure on you to deliver at the other end. I thought overall the shots that we did get were shots that we made throughout the course of the night. Unfortunately, we went on a little cold streak in the fourth.”
The Nets (17-26) have now lost six of their last seven games and extended their losing streak against the Knicks to four games.
Tuesday’s loss continued what has been a disturbing trend of late-game futility for the Nets. They could have easily been 5-0 over their past five games instead of 1-4.
Brooklyn had a 16-point lead against the Miami Heat on Jan. 15 and a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers on Jan. 17. It blew out the Lakers last Friday and then had a meltdown of historic proportions in the fourth quarter against the Clippers on Sunday. It then let an eight-point fourth-quarter lead slip away against the Knicks on Tuesday.
“I think the main thing is we can’t keep changing the way we play,” Johnson said. “We’re changing the way we play in the fourth quarter, and we need to stick with what got us there. That’s what we’re straying away from.”
Bridges believes it comes down to the Nets learning how to better handle adversity.
“We had it earlier in the year, won some games then,” Bridges said. “But we’ve kind of lost that. It’s tough when you keep losing at the end, it puts your confidence down. So we just have to keep sticking together. We’re going to be in those positions a lot. We just have to stay ready.”
The loss wasted Johnson’s best offensive performance since Dec. 26, as the forward finished with 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting (4-of-6 from deep) in 25 minutes. Center Nic Claxton also pulled down a career-best 17 rebounds.
The inter-borough rivals will meet again at Madison Square Garden on March 23. The Nets will face the Minnesota Timberwolves at Barclays Center on Thursday.
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